Cambodian Villagers Celebrate Traditional Fishing Festival in Cultural Province

A villager casts his fishnet during a traditional fishing festival in Siem Reap province, Cambodia on Feb. 11, 2024. Photo by Sao Khuth/Xinhua

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- Wading in thigh-deep muddy waters in a big lake here in the cultural province of Siem Reap, hundreds of villagers on Sunday used traditional fishing tools to catch fish in an annual fishing festival.

Wearing palm leaf hats and traditional scarves to protect themselves from the scorching sun, villagers netted freshwater snakehead fish, catfish and climbing perch fish in a protected lake in Bangkoang village, Prasat Bakong district, about 300 kilometers from the capital Phnom Penh.

Villager Chan Poun said this tradition has been celebrated by villagers every year in February after the rice harvest season.

"It has been celebrated since ancient times. This is the tradition of our Cambodian villagers here," he told Xinhua while taking part in the ceremony.

"I'm very happy to join this festival and would like to see our villagers continue to preserve this tradition forever," he added.

Poun, who has participated in the event for more than 10 years, noticed that this traditional ceremony has gained popularity from year to year, as more and more people have joined it.

Prasat Bakong's district governor So Platong said the tradition has existed since ancient times to mark the end of the rice harvest season, and it has been passed down for generations.

"This is the tradition of the villagers in Siem Reap province, which is home to the Angkor Archaeological Park," he told reporters at the event. "It is one of our traditional festivals to help attract national and international tourists."

Platong said participants are only allowed to use traditional fishing gear such as woven bamboo traps and nets to scoop up their catch.

Bangkoang village chief Pich Khin said the festival has not only preserved old tradition, but also reminded people not to use illegal fishing equipment.

He added that about two tons of fish were caught in this year's event.

"Fish output caught this year was less than that of 2023, but the number of villagers taking part in this festival was more than that of last year," he said.

"In our area, most of the fish are snakehead fish, catfish and climbing perch fish," he added.

Fish is a major source of protein for the population in the Southeast Asian country. According to the ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Cambodians eat an average of 52.4 kilograms of fish per person a year.

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